This Week In The 'Drome, ch-ch-changes?
Trotz vs. Munchak: A ho-hum season of frustrations from the Titans and an underwhelming start for the Predators has Nashville sports fans calling for blood.
In this week's dead-tree, thoughts on how each team should approach a coaching change.
Hemming and hawing from new team president Tommy Smith raises questions about whether the new leadership of the Titans is new at all or if it's simply a rehash of Bud Adams' Love Ya Blue fetishism:
“It’s awful,” Smith said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “I have known Mike for 30 years, and it’s hard to find someone of higher character, with greater integrity than Mike Munchak. He is a very intelligent guy and a good man. We would like things to work out for Mike in that capacity.”
Munchak may well be intelligent and a good man, but he is out of his depth as a head coach. No fan wants to watch another 6-10 or 7-9 season, plagued by inconsistencies and baffling play calls. And the ownership shouldn't tolerate it either — no matter how long their friendship with Munchak.
A change is needed on the East Bank — fresh thinking from outside the Oilers/Titans tree — but will desperate clinging to the glory days of the old Oilers — such as they were — prevent it?
Meanwhile, calls for someone — and in many cases, in fairness, that someone has been GM David Poile — to lose their job with the Predators have quieted somewhat after consecutive wins, but another five-game losing streak and they'll be loud again.
In the Predators case, wholesale change shouldn't begin with the coach as it should with the Titans, but should end with it. Barry Trotz would be unemployed for as long as it takes someone to call from Winnipeg if the Predators let him go, which isn't a reason to keep somebody, but is testament to how well regarded he is for getting as much out of an often-outmatched team. On only a few occasions this season has Nashville lacked effort — usually the problem is that they aren't very good. There's still tread on Trotz's tires, but his engine all too often hasn't had the horsepower to spin them.
Coaches frequently take much of the blame for bad teams — particularly at the professional level. In Nashville, one of our coaches deserves it.
The Week Behind
Bowl Tied: The two Tennessee teams that qualified for bowl games will be heading for new destinations in the midwinter.
MTSU will play Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl in Ft. Worth, riding a five-game win streak and heading into the game 8-4 (Navy is 7-4 and plays Army tomorrow; Go Navy). The trip comes a year after the Raiders were snubbed, not recommended for the post-season by its then-conference, the Sun Belt. No such problem in their first year in Conference USA. They'll face the Midshipmen's infamous option attack, a style-clash with the Raiders Let's-Run-100-Plays offense.
Vanderbilt will head down I-65 to play Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl, held in the parts of Legion Field which have yet to be condemned. There was disappointment in some parts of the Commodore fanbase, which expected to go to the Gator Bowl (which picked Georgia, despite Vandy having defeated the Bulldogs), but the 'Dores do get to play their first out-of-state bowl game since 1982 when they played...in Birmingham in the old Hall of Fame Bowl. James Franklin isn't focused on a snub (or an apparent snub), instead saying he wants to get to nine wins and noting that the class of seniors has done tons to change Vanderbilt:
"From a cultural standpoint, from an expectations standpoint, it's a 360-degree difference right now."
What, wait? 360 degrees? Wouldn't that be right back where you started?
TSU's post-season ended with a drubbing at OVC foe Eastern Illinois in the second-round of the FCS playoff. Ever thought about what might happen if the FCS copied the FBS playoff format? I did.
Same As It Ever Was: Surely no one thought the Titans would go into a frigid Mile High Stadium and knock off Peyton Manning's Broncos, right?
Hearts warmed early in the game as Munchak and Co. showed a little early pop: Ryan Fitzpatrick completed a 57-yard pass to Justin Hunter to set up a Shonn Greene touchdown run. Newly-acquired returned Leon Washington fell just short of bringing a kickoff back for a score (Chris Johnson scored on the next play, giving Tennessee an early 14-7 lead).
Alas, a team can only pretend to be good for so long. With help from a record-setting 64-yard field goal by Matt Prater, the Broncos finally bashed the last remaining hopes of a Titans playoff appearance on the rocks with a 51-28 win.
Four-Point Week, Just As We All Predicted: The Predators' short road trip got off to an inauspicious start when their charter plane struck a hawk on take-off and the team was delayed in getting to Washington. They may as well just have stayed home. The magic wore off Marek Mazanec and the Caps sailed to a 5-2 win in DC. The team limped into a nationally-televised game against the Rangers under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden and, lo and behold, took a 4-1 victory with goals scored by the very likely quartet of Rich Clune, Matt Hendricks, Nick Spaling and Paul Gaustad.
Last night, the team retained the Conference III Championship Belt — a fact noted by current starting goaltender Carter Hutton — and won the Chambers Pot with a 3-1 against Dallas, quieting the call for a coaching change (at least for a few days).
Boned: Check out this year's batch of Boners, featuring sports typos and Kenny Britt.
Seth Jones Will Eat Donuts With You: Cool piece from ESPN this week about Seth Jones.
Let's Go Outside: Inexplicably, the NHL very well may put an outdoor game in Phoenix of all places. Should their opponent be the Predators? Maybe the Preds could play at Greer. Not like it's gonna be doing anything.
The Week Ahead
This Doesn't Get Any Easier: Three tough, tough games for the Predators this week, starting tomorrow night against the San Jose Sharks, currently second in the Pacific Division mostly by virtue of a blistering start.
The Blackhawks — and their charming fans — come to town Tuesday in a Championship Belt match-up and seeking revenge for the shocking 7-2 shellacking they received last time around.
Next Thursday, the Tampa Bay Lightning — sans Steven Stamkos — drop by.
Worthless Prediction: A three-point week might not keep the braying dogs away from Barry Trotz's job, but would nonetheless seem pretty successful all told.
The Ghost of Matt Mauck: Remember when Vandy and Kentucky used to be basically the most meaningless game in the world? That's sort of what this is.
Yet again, the Titans square off against the Arizona Cardinals late in the year — just as they did when Matt Mauck was the Two-Toners quarterback in 2005 (Mauck, by the way, is now a dentist in Aurora, Colorado). But that's not to say these teams haven't played exciting games — remember Vince Young leading a 99-yard drive in 2009? I bet he does. I bet he tells that story all the time.
Worthless Prediction: A crowd of nearly almost two-thirds of LP Field's capacity will watch the Titans try to give the game away and succeed: 27-20 Cardinals.
Email to jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. Radio Tuesdays at 6 on 102.5 The Game (usually).